David Kinnamen, the president of the Barna Group has a new book out that examines the ways that young people navigate the transition from High School to Young Adulthood in terms of their faith; and why so many decide to leave church. The book's title is "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church and Rethinking Faith." He's interviewed more than 5,000 teens and twenty-somethings and finds that there's a relatively common thread in all of their experiences.
They come to a difficult question or a complicated situation and they find the Church's teaching lacking or in a number of cases, not sufficiently challenging.
Michael Martin interviews Kinnamen on National Public Radio:
"MARTIN: And are you finding this phenomenon across what people consider liberal and conservative churches or do you find it concentrated in one side or the other?
KINNAMEN: Well, one of the surprises for me was I figured that we would see some differences between young Catholics, for instance, and young Protestants and young mainline versus young evangelicals. But I think the overriding theme was that this generation, in so many ways, is post-institutional, regardless of their traditions. So many similarities in their reasons and their reactions to the church and to Christianity.
Some of the things that were different was I think many churches that deal well with complexity didn't give a sufficient amount of conviction or commitment required of the young people that they work with. And then, conversely, those that had a strong degree of commitment and sort of emotional connection with the church didn't deal well with the complexity. So it was sort of a double-edged sword for many of these churches."
You can read the transcript of the Kinnamen interview here on NPR's site.
It's interesting that the studies indicate that the majority don't lose their faith as result, or their sense of spirituality. It's their relationship to their church that suffers.